The Art of Snow
The Lesson Plan
Book: The Snowy Day
Themes: Snow, Creative Play, Feelings, Discovery
Subjects: Language Arts, Visual Arts
Students will able to:
- identify and discuss elements of a story
- understand how pictures are used to tell a story
- observe an artistic style and attempt to re-create it
- develop their own creative ideas and incorporate them
- chalk pastels (blue, turquoise, purple and pink)
- 12×18-inch white sulphite drawing paper for each student
- Mod Podge (all-in-one sealer, glue and finish)
- dark-colored tissue paper or copy paper
- white and colored construction paper
- sparkle glitter
Creating the background
- Place a small container of chalk pastels in each color and a sheet of white sulphite drawing paper at each child’s work space. The children can choose as many or as few colors as they wish to smear the entire surface of the paper with chalk.
- To set the chalk and add a glossy sheen, paint over the drawings with Mod Podge for younger children; older children can do this on their own. Using dark-colored lightweight paper such as tissue paper or copy paper, show the children how to make paper snowflakes using any traditional method you prefer. (To get you started, here are instructions for paper snowflakes.)
Making snowdrifts and happy kids
- Set out trays of white and colored paper scraps. Show the children how to draw and cut simple figures playing in the snow. Instruct the children to glue the snowdrifts first, then glue the figures starting at the center and moving outwards. Children typically glue pieces along the outer edges—but even though many of them may do it this way, their pictures will still look great!
Adding falling snow
- The final step is to cast a shimmery snowfall over the picture. The children can apply glitter to specific areas or their entire drawing using Mod Podge.
Why We Like It
The lesson can be adjusted to the varying degrees of sophistication of kindergartners to third graders, as they learn Keats art techniques, discover what goes into illustrating a book and make aesthetic decisions. The layering of the different mediums is so reminiscent of Ezra’s style, starting with chalk pastels, often used by Ezra. Next, making snowflakes allows each child to create a unique picture, as all the snowflakes will be different. The final step of adding snowdrifts and happy kids offers an opportunity for the children to put themselves in the story.
Patty Palmer, founder of the art lesson website Deep Space Sparkle, discussed her insights into art teaching and children’s literature with Gayle in an exchange of emails.
Do you choose your art lessons for literature based on the story or the art displayed in the book?
Both. The story needs to be the right length for my class. If there is too much text to read, I wouldn’t have time for the art lesson. I look for stories that the children can relate to, whether it’s learning a new concept or just enjoying good literature. For the illustration, I’m inspired by child-like art that has interesting silhouettes, colors or textures. Understanding how an illustrator creates his art is something children really enjoy. Actually, the breakdown of illustrations is quite empowering for children.
How does art-making contribute to the development of literacy ?
When I was young, I kept a sketchbook of all the characters that I read about in books. I liked re-imagining what they looked like, where they lived, and basically tried to extend the story by creating my own versions in my sketchbook. Today picture books serve as my inspiration. By creating art in the style of an illustrator, it’s my hope that children will begin to understand the many layers of picture-book making, including bringing the story to life through their own art. I take every opportunity I can to read to my students. Introducing new authors and illustrators is my way of connecting them to literature in a visual and creative way.
Have you seen art projects contribute to skill-building in a way that surprised you?
The students constantly surprise me. We tend to think children aren’t as interested in books as much as they used to be, and I would tend to agree. But when I do read a book with a great story and vivid illustrations, the kids are really into it! I rarely have a child who doesn’t want to create art. I believe children crave the creative aspect of story-making, they just don’t know it.
Are elementary art teachers feeling pressure to conform to the Common Core curriculum?
I don’t have to conform to Common Core yet, but many art teachers I know feel favorable with the learning aspects of Common Core. It puts additional pressure on lesson planning and assessment, but overall, the concept just extends the learning opportunity for the child. It is hard to argue against creating rich learning environments in every subject, but sometimes I feel that art should just be viewed as art. Create. Express. Enjoy. Does it really matter if a child understands atmospheric perspective? Or knows when Picasso was born? This certainly matters as a child advances through his education, but for the little ones, we all should relax a bit.
A Note from Gayle
Revisiting The Snowy Day, I adapted this simple, innovative lesson from the website Deep Space Sparkle that deepens the children’s experience of the book through art. The process of making pictures in Ezra’s style allows the children not only to create unique artwork but also to step into Peter’s world of snow and wonder.